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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fresh Off the Boat is a family sitcom about a Chinese-American family and is based on the bestselling memoir by restaurateur Eddie Huang. In a light and often sardonically sweet manner, the show tackles many challenging subjects: race, class, and ethnicity. Characters react in unpleasant ways to various aspects of the Huangs' life; ethnic slurs such as "chink" are used. Parents may want to watch with children to discuss sensitive topics. The young actor playing the fictionalized Huang, who fancies himself a tough guy like his heroes Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., says things such as "What the hell?" and "Shut up!" to his brothers in front of his parents (who scold him).
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What's the story?
Based on the bestselling memoir of the same title by culinary entrepreneur Eddie Huang, FRESH OFF THE BOAT presents a fictionalized version of the Huang family: 11-year-old Eddie (Hudson Yang), younger brothers Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), dad Louis (Randall Park), mom Jessica (Constance Wu), and Grandma (Lucille Soong). When we catch up with the Huangs, they've just moved from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida, where Louis has opened a Western-themed restaurant. The restaurant isn't doing that well, and neither are certain members of the Huang family. Jessica feels lost among the Barbie-doll-like neighborhood moms. Emery and Evan's school hands out stickers instead of grades. And Eddie is struggling to fit in. The Huangs feel out of place in their new home, but if they stick together, they'll get through it somehow.
Is it any good?
On the network of Modern Family and Black-ish, this sitcom seems both completely at home and -- the title says it best -- fresh. In less deft comedic hands, plot lines such as the mother concluding that her sons need after-school Chinese education could come off as stereotyped and offensive. Instead, the jokes feel warm and lived-in and often have a pleasantly absurd twist: When the mother, Jessica, goes to Eddie's principal to complain about the quality of her son's education, the daft principal talks up the school's lone after-school offering: farm animals that come to be petted. In fact, "I have a baby chicken on my lap right now," he says. Eddie's face lights up as he reaches over to pet it.
It's a sweet moment, and there are a lot of them in Fresh Off the Boat, with actors who are appealing enough to carry them off. Eddie's pre-puberty swagger is adorable instead of annoying; Jessica seems like a real mama bear instead of a Tiger Mom stereotype. Even Grandma gets her moments to shine. This is a great show for whole-family viewing; lively discussions of what happened on the show may well follow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the basis behind Fresh Off the Boat's humor. It's a "fish out of water" comedy. Which others can you name wherein people find themselves in situations where they feel out of place?
What does the title of this show mean? Which "boat" is being referred to? If you haven't heard this phrase before, look it up online. What do you think about the title?
How is the audience supposed to feel about the Huangs? Are we supposed to laugh at them? With them?
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